John A. Steakely

Attorney John Steakley is a 1996 graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Law. He began his career as the Special Prosecutor for Drug Crimes for a multi-county, multi-agency drug task force in Tennessee, where he represented the State of Tennessee in thousands of felony and misdemeanor cases in a 5-county judicial district.

Judge Calls Civil Forfeiture "State-Sanctioned Theft"

Judge Calls Civil Forfeiture "State-Sanctioned Theft"

A judge has said out loud what most lawyers already know:  civil forfeiture is legalize theft.

In the forfeiture case, the state wanted to seize Gregory Palazzari’s gas station in State College, Pa., for allegedly being a storage and selling place for cocaine. Palazzari pled guilty to drug trafficking charges, but argued that the gas station should not be forfeited under the law. The government argued Palazarri was not entitled to a hearing in court to present evidence against the forfeiture.

It IS state-sanctioned theft. The photo in this post is an overhead view of a lot full of seized cars.  Most civil forfeiture cases begin with a drug case. Civil forfeiture cases are entirely separate cases with their own case numbers, court dates and rules. Sometimes they will have the same judge and prosecutors, but not always. You can lose your property even if you win the underlying criminal case. In fact, their doesn't even have to be an underlying criminal case. The police can take your property even if they can't prove you did anything wrong.

In this remarkable case from Tennessee, police seized $22,000 from a man simply because he couldn't prove where it came from. That's outrageous. Your money is your money. You shouldn't have to prove that you got it legitimately. Rather, the burden should be upon the government (police) to prove that you didn't.

If you get involved in a case like this, please don't try to handle it yourself. There are some deadlines and required filings that will kill your case if you miss them. Call us. We can help.


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